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Targeted advertising or online stalking?

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Targeted advertising or online stalking?

With an avalanche of targeted advertising, consumers are increasingly feeling stalked, being forced to “skip” ads altogether. Many people have started to believe that too much advertising is working against itself—especially on the Internet. With rising number of advertisers spending a chunk of their marketing budget on advertising across all media platforms, will we one day collectively say ‘enough is enough?’

Each company wants to deliver its so-called “unique sales pitch” and value proposition and with a frequency that would make sure they won’t be forgotten. This frequency eventually wears the consumer out, and pushes him to shun the brand altogether.

Too personal?

So while brands get increasingly personal with consumers based on all manner of information they hold, thanks to big data, consumers are unable to feel the same intimacy with brands. This may then explain why we tend to find such negative reactions to personalized marketing.

Tech firms are now tapping online browsing histories of online shoppers and are selling this data to advertisers to sell similar products to the buyer. If one goes online to buy a pair of shoes, one will be drowned by shoes everywhere on the web—not even considering the fact that the buyer already bought a pair of shoes. Why would he/she need to see more of the same pair of shoes? How effective is that targeted advertising when all is said and done?

As far as digital is concerned, Gautam Talwar, Chief Strategy Officer at Rediffusion Y&R, thinks, “The biggest mistake we make is to run the offline campaign in the online medium and that may not bear the desired results that one is seeking from the medium. Digital being a “lean forward” medium, when compared with offline (TV) being a “lean back medium,” the behavior itself on both mediums is different, and hence it demands that communication understand this difference and plug in accordingly.”

“The reason why there is irritation and the tendency to hit the skip button is that most advertisers do not understand the media consumption habit on this medium, and hence, till that is correct, all the data in the world that makes you target the right audience will fall short on this medium. In the online world, I am actively looking at engaging with the medium. I am searching for something, or I am positing or sharing on the medium. I am not passively consuming, and hence all campaigns digital must result in some very high active engagement and action that is required off the consumer. The engagement quotient has to be the highest as I am in that frame of mind,” he further added.

What’s the target?

Targeted advertising is a type of advertising whereby advertisements are placed so as to reach consumers based on various traits such as demographics, psychographics and behavioral variables (product purchase history, clicks, etc.). It’s a way for brands to maximize their relevance and effectiveness; and for consumers to get information that’s meaningful and valuable for them.

According to Kulmeet Bawa, Director Enterprise - South Asia, Adobe, “Targeted advertising is the mantra of today and the way of the future for both advertisers and consumers. Today’s web visitors may not understand how they receive highly optimized and personalized digital content—but increasingly, they expect it. Marketers must quickly determine and deliver optimized experiences across a brand’s digital properties for an often diverse visitor population.”

However, could too much of targeting, contextualization, be unproductive for the brand? Can it have a negative impact on the brand? “That is probably the uncanny valley, the point where the advertising leads to a dip in the revenues after seeing growth, and this is what I think: Imagine, in the offline world, walking into a store and seeing advertising for a brand.

The moment it gets too much, one feels hounded. The same applies to online advertising as well. We want to see advertising relevant to us, but we certainly don’t want to be hounded by it all the time. It is disconcerting for us to be followed everywhere we go. So brands and advertisers need personalization, but the experience for the consumer needs to be optimized and carefully managed across media – both online and offline!” he added.

Consumer connect

“Ads are an irreplaceable part of any company’s marketing strategy. As the number of hand-held devices increase, advertisers are discovering new mediums to reach out to the consumer. Advertising as an industry is multiplying each day. If ads are going to be present, they need to spark consumers’ interests, not something that hunts them down and stalks them,” said John Kerr, Managing Director, Asia, Zeno Group.

“Advertising in the online medium will become a lot more relevant as we align the advertising with the way the medium is getting consumed, and the more nuanced understanding of that consumption behavior we have as advertisers, the more our advertising will be non-intrusive—non boring and relevant. I think more new metrics to evaluate advertising online is also needed. Is the ad "discoverable?" And is the advertising "sharable?” These are two metrics one must keep in mind to make sure that digital and online space is utilized effectively by advertisers. You may not have the same metrics in the offline world,” said Gautam Talwar.

Effective targeting leads to less waste and higher profit for a marketer and a great brand experience for a consumer.

“The truth is, marketers must tap into the constant stream of web activity and customer data to gain intelligent insight into what visitors and customers want to see and experience. They must immediately act on that insight and deliver highly relevant, personalized content throughout the customer life cycle.  As customers move across online, mobile, and social channels, marketers should be able to build individual profiles that capture customers’ interests, activities, and interactions, all of which helps in creating more relevant marketing experiences,” said Kulmeet Bawa.

Today’s marketers need a personalization solution that’s both intuitive and sophisticated—one that gives them complete control, reduces their workload through automation, and increases customer conversion and brand loyalty.

“If it’s done well, it should be relevant, valuable, and promote a relationship between the brand and the consumer. It’s the perfect mix between art and science. For example, it is irritating for me as a consumer to return home to Delhi from a trip to Kashmir, only to be served an advertisement of a flight promotion between Delhi and Kashmir, or offers on Kashmiri hotels, right after I have finished my vacation. Marketers and their systems should be smart to understand the dates of travel that I was seeking and should not be serving me the ad when my travel is already done.

“All this is now changing with marketers using technology and the right marketing solutions so that customers get a personalized ‘wow’ experience from a brand,” Bawa pointed out.

Tricia Spencer, author of 1001 Wedding Ideas: The Ultimate Resource for Creating a Wedding No One Will Ever Forget, in her blog, wrote that Amazon was trying to sell her the book that she wrote. “I'm pretty sure I won't be hopping over to Amazon to add another one to my library. So isn't that a wasted opportunity for Amazon to sell me something that I might not have seen before?”

All said, other than those tiny text ads that show up alongside your search results—which have truly revolutionized the ad business—most commercials you see online don’t seem to know anything at all about you or what you might buy. One can just hope for the scenario to change sooner.


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